The Brooklyn Nets were without James Harden for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Milwaukee Bucks but, in the end, it made no difference as the home team took control early and cruised to a 125-86 victory to take a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven series.
Much like their respective performances in Game 1, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant were masterful for the Nets as the All-Star duo combined for 54 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds to lead Brooklyn to victory. Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 18 points but his contributions were not enough to ever make this game feel close.
With the win, Brooklyn takes all the momentum into Game 3 as the series is set to shift to Milwaukee. We'll find out soon enough what Harden's status for that matchup will be but, after what we saw over the course of the Nets' two wins in Brooklyn, it might not make much of a difference if the Bucks can't figure their own issues out.
Here are three key takeaways from the game:
1. Nets cruise after jumping in front early
Game 1 of this series was pretty competitive until the Nets went on a huge run at the end of the third quarter to pull away. This time, the Nets didn't even give the Bucks a chance to hang around. It took them all of seven minutes and 49 seconds to build a double digit lead.
Instead of offering a response of their own, the Bucks cratered. They never managed to cut the deficit back down to single digits, and by the end of the first quarter the Nets were up 36-19. It was smooth sailing the rest of the way for the Nets, as they did whatever they wanted on the offensive end.
Kevin Durant had another terrific game, finishing with 32 points, four rebounds and six assists on 12-of-18 from the field. Not that anyone does, really, but the Bucks just have no answer for him. PJ Tucker is too slow, Jrue Holiday is too small and even Giannis was getting lit up by crossovers and step-back jumpers. Kyrie Irving, meanwhile, put up 22 points, five rebounds and six assists, and the Nets shot 50 percent from 3-point land.
2. Nets set franchise playoff record for 3-pointers
The big problem with trying to slow down the Nets is that they can beat you in so many different ways. Durant, Irving and James Harden (when he plays) are three of the best isolation scorers in basketball. But if you try to send too much help to take the ball out of one of those three's hands, the Nets have elite shooters all around the court.
This wasn't a great Bucks performance, but sometimes it really does feel like they're unstoppable, and Game 2 was the latest example. In addition to Durant and Irving going off, the Nets went 21-of-42 from 3-point land to set a new franchise record for made 3-pointers in a playoff game.
Led by Durant and Irving, who each hit four, nine different players knocked down at least one 3-pointer in the game. It's not like the Bucks can really expect the Nets to cool off moving forward either. The Bucks allowed opponents to shoot 38.4 percent from 3-point land in the regular season, which was second-worst in the league, and most of the Nets' 3-point attempts are wide open.
3. Bucks in serious trouble
With a few minutes still left in the fourth quarter, the Bucks' Twitter account sent out a message that said, "It's a best of seven." And yes, that's true, the series isn't over just yet. However, even the most fervent supporters have to acknowledge at this point that the Bucks are in serious trouble.
In the entire history of the NBA playoffs, 430 teams have found themselves in the position the Bucks are in: trailing 2-0 in a series. Only 28 of those teams managed to make a comeback, and none of them were playing the 2021 Nets, who have arguably the greatest collection of offensive talent ever assembled.
It would be one thing if the Bucks had stood tall and lost a few close games on the road. They would still be in a tough spot, but you could at least talk yourself into them having a chance, especially with James Harden's status up in the air. Instead, they capitulated after a tough start in Game 2, and this series feels over.